A voice from the past challenges the present

BY: Elizabeth Ohene

His Excellency John Dramani Mahama is not having a good campaign. As the presidential candidate of the National Democratic Congress (NDC), he has based his entire campaign to be re-elected as President of this republic on the premise that his government has brought infrastructural development to Ghana.

In the words of his spokespersons, it has been “unprecedented” infrastructural development. Some of them say no other government has come near him. He has, we are asked to believe, delivered in four years (eight years depending on the state of your Mathematics) more infrastructural development than the aggregation of what all the preceding leaders did in this country.

There are those who have tried to counter this claim, and you can count me among this group, by pointing out that the claims being made by the Mahama administration have been exaggerated.


Phantom projects and questionable costs

Roads are said to have been built, which remain in a terrible state, artists impressions of would-be projects have been offered as projects that have been executed and then there are the phantom projects, which are a blatant and deliberate manufacture of untruths. The most recent example being the five clinics said to have been built in the Western Region, which we are now told do not exist.

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Probably the most enduring criticism of the infrastructure claims has been the cost of these projects and the sole-sourcing regime that the government had adopted to give out the projects.

The President has tried to deflect such criticism, as is his wont, by finding what he imagines to be a smart expression to use as a put-down. Those who question the cost of his projects, President Mahama calls “Political Quantity Surveyors” and that is supposed to put a stop to the genuine questions being asked about the cost of his projects.

We cannot question the cost of the Kasoa Interchange because, according to the President, it is not an ordinary interchange; there are schools, bus stops and maybe markets embedded in the interchange. We are being asked to suspend belief in everyday things and accord the supernatural and extraordinary mantle to what should be regular, everyday things.

We all know how much it costs to build a school even in Mahama’s Ghana and, therefore, adding four schools to an interchange should not change the cost of the interchange into something those outside government cannot understand if explained to them.

Every time the President runs into a difficulty, he tries to seek refuge in claiming we cannot understand. This led him to suggest only Presidents Jerry Rawlings and J. A. Kufuor, the two living former Presidents Ghana has, can criticise him because only they can understand what a President does.

With such a mindset, it is not surprising he says thoroughly absurd things like Samira Bawumia cannot understand the technical reasons why there is a water problem in Bole, the President’s hometown.

Mr President, you would be surprised how many really smart Ghanaians there are who understand things you have never heard about.

Apart from the cost of projects, some people have sought to dismiss the entire concept of infrastructural development as a basis for re-electing a sitting government.

Throughout this election campaign, some have pointed out that while in opposition, a certain Vice-presidential candidate, John Dramani Mahama, was scathing about a government, any government, wanting to be judged or retained in office because of its record of infrastructural development.


That old recording

Last week, a definitive interview emerged of John Mahama articulating these views. The President’s words, or to put it correctly, the then vice-presidential candidate’s words deserve to be played over and over again.

He says a government’s achievements should not be measured on the infrastructure that it provides. It is petty to compare how many kilometres of roads or schools or bridges one government builds with what another one builds. He says President J. A. Kufuor has provided wonderful infrastructure and any government that succeeds him will add on to it.

With one old recording of less than two minutes duration, the entire basis of President Mahama’s 2016 campaign is reduced to rubble. Everything he has been saying since May when he embarked on his Accounting to the People Tour, his Green Book, his Manifesto and the campaign tour sound hollow.

It is not clear what presidential candidate Mahama wants us to make of his 2008 words. Is he a wiser man now and does he want to disavow what he said then? Should we compare the infrastructure provision of governments or would that be an exercise in pettiness and mediocrity. Has he added on to the wonderful infrastructural achievements of President Kufuor? Or has he built a Dubai here from scratch?

I think there are comparisons to be made. There is something to be compared in the decision on what to build, the prioritisation of projects and how much projects cost. For example, it is my view that maybe one day, it would be useful, but the airport being built in Ho, which I imagine would be inaugurated before December 7, is currently a white elephant.

All governments build schools indeed, but we must compare the cost of schools built under the NDC government from 2010 up to now. It would be useful and helpful for all of us if President John Mahama would tell us if he has changed his mind from the position he took back in 2008.

There would be good reason for him to change his mind, at that time he hadn’t become a President and he has assured us that everything looks different from the perspective of a President. This is why according to the Dramani gospel, you cannot criticise a President unless and until you have been one.

It would also be interesting to hear from him what he thinks the 2016 Election is about. To use his own words, it should not be about how many kilometres of roads or bridges or schools he has built, the election should not be about comparing one government’s performance in the infrastructure sector with another. He offered in 2008 that the election are about the people’s aspirations as we was forward.

The President has to decide what he thinks is at stake before he asks us to vote for him. At the moment, it is not clear he knows what we are voting for.
The majority of Ghanaians know these elections are about our tomorrows.